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Eur J Biochem. 1991 Dec 5;202(2):411-20.

The distribution of permeant ions demonstrates the presence of at least two distinct electrical gradients in bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma brucei.

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Department of Biochemistry, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


The distribution of 86Rb+ and the radiolabelled lipophilic cation [3H]methyltriphenylphosphonium (MePh3P+) was used to investigate the membrane potentials that exist in bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma brucei. Even after correction for binding to cellular constituents, the accumulation of MePh3P+ was approximately tenfold greater than the accumulation of Rb+ under resting conditions. The addition of low concentrations of carbonylcyanide p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone or valinomycin reduced the accumulation of MePh3P+ tenfold without perturbing the accumulation of Rb+. Although selective permeabilization of the plasma membrane abolished the accumulation of Rb+ and caused a substantial decrease in the accumulation of MePh3P+, a significant carbonylcyanide-p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone-sensitive accumulation of MePh3P+ persisted under these conditions. These data were consistent with the presence of at least two distinct membrane potentials (delta psi) in bloodstream forms of T. brucei; a potential across the plasma membrane (delta psi p) and an additional delta psi, generated by the electrogenic movement of H+, across the membrane of an intracellular organelle that possesses no electrical permeability to Rb+ or K+.

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